Facebook for First Graders

Facebook has become such an integral part of our culture that it is as familiar to the average person as the horseless carriage (cars) and the magic picture box (television).  Of course, it is the younger generation that is primarily driving acceptance, but it is increasingly popular with seniors as well, as they discover how easy it is to keep in touch with family members living elsewhere.  Even as it is becoming a way of life for teens and adults, however, what about the elementary school crowd?

Technically, one must be at least 13 years old to have a Facebook account but that hasn’t stopped pre-teens from signing up for the service.  Still, many schools block access to the site for both teachers and students.  Gunn Elementary School in Council Bluffs, Iowa, however, is one of the exceptions.  In fact, first graders at the school update their classroom status several times throughout the day as a means to reinforce lessons, encourage dialog, and keep parents updated on what’s going on in the classroom.

Using Facebook, students are given “an authentic writing opportunity, where they can get meaningful feedback from someone other than a teacher,” says Devin Schoening, Council Bluff Community School District’s K-12 technology coach.  Schoening and his wife, a first grade teacher at Gunn developed the guidelines for using Facebook in the classroom.  The focus is always on learning.  After a lesson, “we ask the student to create a status update that shows not only what they did but what they learned and why it’s important,” says Schoening.

Parents like the idea, as do other educators.  The couple has received inquiries about their project from around the world and has spoken nationally.  Even Facebook officials have given their approval.  Best of all, perhaps, is that the kids love it.  “I like Facebook,” says six-year-old Ella King, “because we send things to our parents and tell them what we do and they send notes back saying they like it.”  Making learning fun — that’s a pretty darn important part of a good classroom, if you ask me, and if it Facebook can play a part in that, I’m okay with it.  What do you think?

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